For a small city, Portland, Maine's got a thriving bar culture. Competitive mixologists are as determined as Portland's top chefs to impress visitors "from away" with their inventiveness, and they often incorporate Maine ingredients in signature drinks. Portland beckons to beer lovers, too, with bars that showcase both local craft brews and rare selections sourced from around the world.
Whether in the Old Port waterfront district or tucked away in revitalized neighborhoods like Munjoy Hill, most Portland bars stay open until 1 a.m. That gives you plenty of time to plan your own bar-hopping itinerary, visiting everything from a spot with dazzling city views to one that pays homage to history.
Evo Kitchen & Bar
The best dine-at-the-bar experience in Portland, Maine, awaits at Evo—set inside, but not affiliated with, the Hyatt Place Portland-Old Port. You'll feel like you're on the set of the Food Network show "Chopped" as you watch Chef Matt Ginn manage the kitchen line. The "Chopped" champion is right there, orchestrating playful plates of Mediterranean fare for you to pair with Maine-made craft beers or cocktails mixed with the same focus on Maine ingredients that drives the food menu. A Maine native who was also named Maine Lobster Chef of the Year in 2015, Ginn makes art of Maine's bounty, and you're in for a sensory treat, whether you order seafood, meat, or vegetarian dishes.
The Independent Ice Co.
If you're into bourbon, this is your home away from home in Portland. And even if you're not, the city's top whiskey bar is a fun spot to drink up stories and your beverage of choice. Black and white photos on brick walls pay homage to the hardworking Mainers who once harvested Kennebec River ice: purported to be the best ice anywhere. Chat with general manager Gary Savage, if you can, and he'll tell you all about the history that inspired this one-of-a-kind bar. Order a charcuterie board to share, too—It's an excellent value— while housemade chocolates filled with bourbon, whiskey, or rye are an irresistible finishing touch. You don't have to order your drink on the rocks, but when at an ice-themed bar in Maine…
Hit an ATM machine, and put your thinking cap on because Lincolns only accepts cash, and, like any good speakeasy, it's not easy to figure out how to get in—even when you know the address. Once you're inside, you'll love that all drinks cost a Lincoln—$5. Don't expect anything too fancy. There are two wines on the menu, a handful of regional beers and ciders on tap, and you can order a rum and Coke or other basic mixed drink. Thursday nights, this cute underground bar becomes the Laugh Shack comedy club.
Top of the East
Located on the top floor of the Westin Portland Harborview hotel, Top of the East is as much about the views as the booze. With enormous windows framing city and harbor scenes, it's a place for those new to town to get acquainted with Portland's sights, and it's particularly alluring as the views light up at night. A lounge-y, Maine-meets-NYC vibe makes this a romantic spot, too, where everyone feels like a VIP. There's a terrific menu of signature cocktails, craft beers, and wines by the glass for you to pair with small plates and snacks. You can even wash down a lobster BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado, and tomato) with a Maine-hattan.
The Bar of Chocolate Cafe
When you want to end your day in Portland on a sweet note, visit this dark and romantic dessert bar in the heart of the Old Port for decadent pairings like chocolate torte and red wine or creme brulee with a salted caramel martini. As long as kids are accompanied by an adult over 21, they, too, can have their cake, but they'll have to settle for hot chocolate instead of a peanut butter martini.
Portland Hunt + Alpine Club
The decor here is sleek and simple: dark wood and white. The cuisine is Scandinavian-inspired, with fluffy popcorn, Swedish meatballs, and boards piled with meats, fish, and cheeses on the menu of snacks. But they take their cocktails super seriously. The bar has been nominated for Outstanding Bar Program by the James Beard Foundation twice, if you need proof. So, dress up and go try a classic espresso martini or something adventurous like Green Eyes made with gin, lime, chartreuse, and egg white. Or take a walk on the wild side with intriguing options like Trapped in Paradise: a mix of sherry, lime, cloves, and brown-butter-washed pineapple rum. Expect to pay upwards of $15 for the privilege of sipping these beauties.
Portlanders know Tomaso's as a dive bar but remember: This is one of New England's best foodie cities. The same standards don't apply here. So, don't expect dim lighting, blah food, and old-timers crushing cans of Bud Light inside this drab brick East End building. You'll be hanging out with local twentysomethings, who like their draft beers brewed locally and their wine in cans. Tomaso's is a cool, fun place where parents and their college-age kids will feel equally at home watching a Patriots game and noshing on the city's best wings: They come in six flavors, with or without bones. The drink to try here is the Munjoy Mule, made with Ice Pik vodka distilled just about an hour south of Portland on the New Hampshire coast.
Sagamore Hill Lounge
The hottest new bar in Portland has a throwback theme. Its decor, cocktail and mocktail menu, and mood are inspired by American icon and 26th president Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt earned his reputation as an outdoorsman in Maine, and Sagamore Hill Lounge reimagines the woodland lodge concept for a contemporary, urban crowd. Housed in the Lafayette Building, a former luxury hotel built during Roosevelt's first term in office, this bar styled with dark woods and taxidermy serves the city's most Instagrammable drinks.
This pub may be in Portland's Old Port tourist district, but it has a distinctly rough-and-tumble, local vibe. Think of it as Portland's version of Boston's Cheers. This is your place to toss back beers and throw darts, to hear some local gossip, and to learn some Maine slang. They serve a mean burger, too.
East Ender Restaurant & Bars
Upstairs is where you want to be at this rustic, two-floor pub. While tourists wait in line for a seat at Duckfat next door, locals know they'll be sipping exotic cocktails and savoring juicy burgers and thrice cooked fries here in no time. Winners of the Portland Press Herald's "cocktail of the year" honors in 2019, East Ender mixes up potent concoctions for boozy Sunday brunches, too, including the Anchors Down, which may convince you to drink your eggs more often.
Novare Res Bier Cafe
Moxie may be Maine's official state beverage, but beer really should be, and Portland is home to beer geeks aplenty. This out-of-the-way beer bar with a lively outdoor patio is ideal for true connoisseurs who want to taste not only the best of what's fresh from local brewers but rare beers from around the globe. There are more than 30 beers on tap at any given moment and more than 400 selections in bottles. The pub fare is reliably good, and families—even those with babies—are welcome to make this their casual hangout.